Here is where my worlds collide. Throughout my career, I have been a molecular biologist researcher, a hairstylist, a color educator, and a brand manager. And while my health journey began in college and centered mainly on weight loss, that journey eventually evolved as much as my career. As I learned, my habits and choices changed – including our personal care and beauty products.
At this point, I was working in a hair salon and was conflicted between my product and ingredient choices at home and what was available to me as a professional in the salon. Luckily, I found some brands with shared values making products (and even hair color) that I felt good about using. In fact, I felt so strongly about what some of these brands were doing that I became an educator and brand manager for one of them.
Natural Beauty Products Facts
Because of that, I have a lot of people who ask me about ingredients and what natural and organic beauty product labels actually mean. And the honest answer is: It’s complicated because the US government only does a little to regulate the claims that so many brands make.
Natural Beauty Products Facts Every Person Should Know:
- Beauty products are not required to be tested for safety before they go on the market. They only need to report when an “adverse event” has occurred, according to the recent update to the FDA’s authority, the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act (MoCRA), in 2022.
- The term “Fragrance” on a label allows the manufacturer to hide dozens (or even hundreds) of other chemicals in the product. However, because of MoCRA, manufacturers must now label all allergens included in products.
- Currently, the European Union has banned 1680 chemicals from cosmetics, while the FDA has only banned or restricted 11. Although with the recent passing of MoCRA, I am hopeful this will change.
- Lastly, the average woman uses 12 personal care products daily, exposing herself to up to 168 chemicals. The average man uses six products for an average of 85 chemicals.
All of this is to say: it’s wise to be mindful of what you put on your body every day. And while it’s nearly impossible to avoid all chemicals, I adhere to the motto: “The dose makes the poison.” So, the more you can reduce your exposure to certain chemicals, the less work your body has to do to deal with them, and the healthier you’ll be!
Natural Beauty Products Definitions
It really delights me how much natural beauty products have been gaining popularity over the years. The more people become conscious of the ingredients they put on their skin; the more companies feel compelled to meet that demand. It’s “voting with your dollars” in the best possible way.
What makes natural beauty products natural?
These products use natural plant-based ingredients that many believe are safer and healthier than synthetic ones. In addition to using more plant-based ingredients, natural beauty products tend to avoid using common irritants and endocrine disruptors. Also, avoiding synthetic ingredients like silicones and other plastic-based ingredients helps our environment. In the US, natural beauty products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the new Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act (MoCRA).
Labeling Natural Beauty Products vs. Organic Beauty Products
The FDA requires that all cosmetic products, including natural beauty products, be properly labeled. The label must contain the following:
- Product’s name
- Manufacturer or distributor’s name
- Net weight or volume of the product.
If the product makes any claims, such as “organic,” “natural,” or “hypoallergenic,” the label must include a disclaimer that the FDA has not evaluated the claims.
Furthermore, the FDA does not have a definition for “natural” or “organic” when it comes to cosmetic products. This means that companies can use these terms on their product labels, even if the product contains synthetic ingredients. To help consumers make informed decisions, some organizations, such as the Natural Products Association and the Organic Trade Association, have established their own guidelines for natural and organic products.
However, cosmetics and personal care products can be certified under the National Organic Program regulations and labeled as such:
All ingredients must be organically grown (may also include water and salt)
95% of ingredients must be organically grown
Made with organic ingredients:
The product contains at least 70% organic ingredients.
No organic label:
The ingredient list may indicate which ingredients were grown organically, but the product cannot have the USDA organic label.
What are the benefits of using Natural or Organic Beauty Products?
Often, natural and organic beauty products are healthier for us because they contain fewer irritants and endocrine disruptors. In addition, when you use a product containing organic ingredients, you support better farming practices for the earth and the environment.
Beware of Greenwashing
Unfortunately, there is a downside to the increased popularity of natural beauty products: the phenomenon of “Greenwashing.” Greenwashing is the practice of making products appear to be more natural or “cleaner” than they actually are. It is similar to how certain foods make health claims, despite being the opposite of healthy, and it requires the consumer to do some research.
What to Look for in Clean and Natural Beauty Products
If you’re new to using clean and natural beauty products, here are some common ingredients to avoid:
Parabens are used as a preservative to give products a longer shelf life. They should be relatively easy to avoid, as paraben-free products out-sell the competition by 80%. You may not be able to avoid them altogether but aim for paraben-free products whenever possible.
These are common detergents used in products that get sudsy. Think shampoos, body washes, and cleaning supplies. While sulfates are not inherently unhealthy for the body, they can be harsh for sensitive skin and not great for the environment (as you use them, they go down the drain into our waterways). Look for sulfate-free or detergent-free products when possible.
There are many reasons to avoid added fragrances and “parfum” in products. Until the recent passing of MoCRA, using the term “fragrance” in an ingredient list was a loophole many companies used to slip other ingredients into the product that they didn’t otherwise want to disclose. But even without hidden ingredients, synthetic fragrances are a common irritant and a major endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors can wreak havoc on our bodies and normal hormone function and cause unwanted weight gain – especially excess fat accumulation on the torso. Instead, look for products that are fragranced with essential oils instead.
Moving forward, if you are not currently using natural beauty products, I encourage you to start reading labels and ingredient lists. Do not get overwhelmed and think you have to swap out everything all at once. Instead, as you run out of your personal care products, use that as an opportunity to explore new brands and see what else is out there.
If you already use natural beauty products, pat yourself on the back! You’re doing a great job keeping your body and the environment healthy. Continue to look for cleaner products whenever possible.
Whether you’re new to natural beauty products or have been using them for years, realize you are taking the first step toward detoxing your body. Fewer toxins coming into your body means fewer toxins you need to help your body clear out.
If you’d like to continue the detox process, grab my free guide: